Saturday, February 28, 2009

3 Chords & the Truth: Embrace the quirk

I can't win for losing.

My two occupational loves in life have been newspapers and radio. Unless you've been living under a soundproof rock for the last decade or so, you know what's been happening to newspapers and radio stations -- and the employment prospects for ink-stained wretches and pilots of the airwaves.

At least I have this little thing called 3 Chords & the Truth . . . and you. At least until I wear out my welcome. And welcomes aren't as durable as they used to be.

ANYWAY . . . lest I wear out that tenuous welcome -- and thank you for your graciousness -- I'd better get to the music, which I think is particularly tasty this week.

This week's is a bit of a quirky show, the whys of which I discuss therein. Yet, quirky is good in the universe inhabited by the Big Show.

I hope it's all good in yours, too.

Embrace the quirk; the quirk makes life an adventure. Even for an old fossil whose first languages are newsprint and vacuum tubes.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sadly for the Rocky, Scripps brought wrong hat


Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Another newspaper has died. This time, it's the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.

There's a lot that can, has and will be said about this sad event. One of the truest things said so far is newspapers aren't things -- they live. And they don't go out of business; they die.

And the heartbreaking damned fact is, given the times in which we live, many, probably most, of the people losing their jobs today -- the people who made the Rocky live and breathe -- will never work for a newspaper again. Perhaps never work in the broad outlines of their chosen profession again.

That's as big a tragedy and waste as the physicist -- or the poet -- relegated to sweeping up factory floors in some communist-bloc country because he or she offended the political regime in some unfathomable way. In America, we don't have an iron-fisted, monolithic political regime to offend and, thus, be banished.

We do, however, have an iron-fisted, monolithic corporate infrastructure to offend by our continuing need for food, shelter and the money to purchase both. We also have the gods of change to offend by becoming an anachronism.

INCREASINGLY, newspapers -- and newspaper people -- are anachronisms. Anachronisms proficient at what, increasingly, no existing economic model will support.

Anachronisms who have mouths to feed and a need to be useful. Anachronisms who know, in their heart of hearts, they will never have a job they can do as well as this one -- this outdated one. Anachronisms who know what they do is needed still, even if nobody else does, because who will keep an eye on the bastards now?

These newly minted anachronisms, the ones with no idea what they'll do now, are human beings . . . despite the prevailing opinion on talk radio and in the Internet comboxes. They hope, they fear, they love and -- to the amazement of those giddy about yet another victory over "the vast left-wing conspiracy" -- they are loved.

And so is their newspaper, which today is no more. One comment on a farewell story on the Rocky Mountain News website struck me as a particularly vivid illustration of this.

SO . . . for the last time, from the Rocky Mountain News:

conative1963 writes:

I feel like my BFF has died. I have been crying on and off for the last 12 hours.

Although I've been in and out of Colorado for the past 20+ years, finding, picking up and reading the Rocky in its inky goodness has been like seeing an old friend. I remember visiting my Grandparents when I was five, and loving the fact that I could actually hold the tabloid-sized paper in my teeny hands MUCH easier than a broadsheet. Thus began my love of an actual newspaper.

Members of my family have been reading the Rocky Mountain News for at least 120 of the last 149.85 years.

I never, ever thought the end of a business would evoke more emotion than the death of a real person. But it has.

I do realize that the Newspaper business has changed, and will continue to change and evolve. Someday, maybe the Rocky will return as an online entity. Until then, it will be missed. Greatly.

I do not look forward to taking this morning's paper to my Alzheimer's riddled 94 year old Grandmother. She inquires daily about her paper, and when I have to take her the Post, I know she will cry.

Thank you, all, for your wonderful work.

Goodbye.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A political joke

I think I may have peed a little laughing at this.

These days, humor oftentimes is the most prescient political commentary. Probably because politicians such as Louisiana's Bobby Jindal are such a joke.

Dust in the wind


As we embark upon Lent, I think it important to give both President Obama and the GOP's tin-eared "savior" a message gleaned from 5,000-plus years of recorded human history.

"No, we can't."


No, Mr. President, we can't come back from this mess we've made for ourselves stronger than ever. Not if we remain a country still given over to a colossal moral and ethical meltdown. Not if we remain a nation devoted to global hegemony in an age of dwindling natural resources. Not if we remain a country powered by consumption, not creation.

And not if we remain a country forced to spend untold trillions to stave off le deluge now, only to ensure le deluge at some future date. The United States of America is in the same boat as the insolvent banks . . . too big to fail, but insolvent nevertheless. We're also in the same boat as "toxic" homeowners -- a swamped boat.

We ain't going to be paying off that national debt.

AS FOR BOBBY BRADY -- er . . . Jindal -- the good gub'na (and sometime exorcist) of Louisiana needs to exorcise some of his own demons, and those of his political party.

(OK, that was a cheap shot. But the one thing we never learn -- and this is a particular "moral hazard" for those of Jindal's religious and political proclivities -- is that Satan's favorite hideout happens to be in our own hearts.)

Ironically, Jindal's response to Obama was wholly based on the same kind of misplaced American exceptionalism -- an exceptionalism unhinged from human history (particularly the history of empires), geopolitical realities and the basic fallenness of humanity.

In other words, no, Americans can't do just anything. If the last eight Republican-governed years haven't made that clear to the "smart man" of the GOP, the poor fellow must be twice as blind and three times as deaf as Helen Keller.

Really, Jindal doesn't have to go far to utterly disprove such a silly notion, this prideful, faux patriotic notion of "Americans can do anything."

For example, Louisiana has been in the Union since 1803 and a state since 1812. If Americans truly can do anything, why, then, is Jindal's state still such a mess?

Why is the next election there for U.S. Senate shaping up to be a battle between a sex worker and a john? Why is Louisiana's educational system such a disaster area? Why can't he balance the state's budget without making education exponentially worse?

If Americans can do anything, how come the Dutch can keep their below-sea-level country safe and dry while we can-doers can't even do the same for one lousy city?

"When we pull together," Jindal said, "there is no challenge we cannot overcome."

AH, BUT THE RUB is that "pull together" part. And, I'm sorry, but if there's one thing Bobby Jindal's Republican Party is not about, it's pulling together.

To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you - the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything. That is why Republicans put forward plans to create jobs by lowering income tax rates for working families ... cutting taxes for small businesses ... strengthening incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers and stabilizing home values by creating a new tax credit for home-buyers. These plans would cost less and create more jobs.
ISN'T THAT WHAT had been going on for the last eight years? What . . . if at first you don't succeed. . . ?

Under Jindal, Louisiana did a fair amount of that itself last year. This year it has a $2 billion deficit. Oops.

No, you can't.

You can't give fallen human beings -- lousy, rotten sinners all -- more and more leeway to build some sort of laissez-faire utopia, then be utterly surprised when they tear down half of what's already there and sneak it out in their lunchbox. Or briefcase.

The trouble with Obama, and Jindal, is the trouble with America. The America that thinks it can do anything, but only occasionally worries about whether the anything it has chosen is anything right.

We've had the pride. I worry now that we're taking the fall.

I wish our political "saviors" would worry about that, too.

Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

'Oh, God. . . .'



How bad was Bobby Jindal in responding to President Obama's Not the State of the Union address?

Let's just say it's appropriate the Louisiana governor took his nickname from the dorky little kid on The Brady Bunch. Because when the overrehearsed wunderkind speedwalked up to the camera like one of those women who have to pee real bad on the TV commercials, then launched into a manic, patronizing and preprogrammed sales pitch for hair tonic . . . er, the GOP position, you just knew somebody's gorgeous locks were about to turn orange.


HELL, EVEN David Brooks, who holds down the right side of The New York Times' op-ed page, thought Jindal was "a disaster for the Republican Party."

Well, the gub'na of the Gret Stet always has been an ambitious overachiever. So it's only natural that he's not content to be a merely a disaster for Louisiana.

Come on. The man left MSNBC's Rachel Maddow speechless. She was reduced to the vocabulary of a three-month old.

Really.

OR . . . as Chris Matthews muttered off camera on MSNBC at the site of Jindal waddling up to the camera with a crazed look in his eyes, "Oh, God."

Do not adjust your set . . . or your meds


There is no problem with your computer. The cognitive dissonance you are experiencing is real, and originated at WWL-TV in New Orleans.

If the station's anchor team is going to have to keep breaking into Mardi Gras parade coverage with reports of mass shootings every year, maybe it's time for them to costume themselves as journalists.

That might tend to lessen the whole Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test vibe.

Then again, maybe we should go ask Alice. When she went through the looking glass, it could be she ended up in the Crescent City.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Throw me some Kevlar, Mister!


Oh, New Orleans! You just can't help yourself, can you?

The Mardi Gras parade shootings just keep getting worse every year. Now the city's hoodlums are shooting babies and the cotton-candy man.

THE HOT-LEAD ROUNDUP is courtesy of the Times-Picayune:
Six people were injured this afternoon after a shooting spree broke out along the St. Charles Avenue parade route near Second Street, according to the New Orleans Police Department.

Listed in serious condition are two men, both around 20, who were shot in the abdomen, according to Jeb Tate with New Orleans EMS.

Four others were listed in stable condition. They include a 1-year-old boy with a graze wound to the back; a 17-year-old girl shot in the thigh; a 50-year-old woman shot in the elbow, and and 30-year-old man with a graze wound to the thigh.

All appeared to be innocent bystanders in the area for the day's Carnival parades, said Deputy Chief Kirk Bouyelas.

The violence broke out about 1:40 p.m. on the lake side of St. Charles somewhere between the neutral ground and sidewalk. Truck parades continued to roll down the street as several dozen police officers this afternoon worked the active crime scene just steps away.
OH . . . AND HERE is the money quote from the story, courtesy of a witness: "There was an ambulance that was picking up a guy off the street and people didn't even stop vying for throws."

Every year, Mardi Gras is followed by Lent. And if the Big Easy can't somehow, someway get its s*** together -- and laying money on
that would be an even worse investment than financials on the stock market -- the City That Care Forgot will just as surely become the Ghost Town that Lent Won't Leave.

Enjoy all the junk you caught as people lay wounded all around you.

Lord, have mercy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Everything old is new and hip again



Over on Twitter, someone was commenting on the novel ways of working in sponsors and product placement on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the late-night show on ABC. It was a classic case of "everything old is new again."

In this case, "novel" is a sponsor's product all over the show and commercials done, on the set, by the show's cast.

ONCE UPON A TIME in television, shows often were sponsored by a single advertiser (or just a few advertisers), the sponsor's product was all over the program, and live commercials were quite common -- like the above live ad for Polaroid cameras on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar, and the one below (near the end of the video) for Alpo dog food during Johnny Carson's Tonight tenure.

It's a beautiful thing when things get out of control.



AND, OF COURSE, there was the master of the live commercial during the infancy of television in the late 1940s and 1950s . . . Arthur Godfrey.




INNOVATION. It's a wonderful thing. Even the second or third time around.

Hey, I've got this idea . . . why doesn't somebody put announcers on the radio playing music they find noteworthy and think the audience might want to hear. You could have these guys on all the local stations, live, 24 hours a day -- keeping the listening audience company, as it were.

You could call them something like "disc jockeys." I think that's kind of catchy.

And you could have news every hour so people can keep up with events, and the whole thing could be kind of a "theater of the mind."

It could be groundbreaking . . . really cutting-edge stuff.

I wonder whether anybody would go for it.

Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!


I've got to stop reading the blogs.

And the news sites and the newspaper.

While I'm at it, I also need to blow up my TV.

"WHY?" YOU ASK? It's because I can't stand being reminded -- reminded every day that God in Heaven sends -- just how much of a bunch of f***ing Nazis we have become.

Find some neighbors on the wrong side of the political divide? Demonize them.

Discover that most people are suckers for one thing or another? Cheat 'em.

Somebody standing between you and your heart's desire? Roll over 'em. Repeat if necessary.

Enjoying the sex but wigged out by the baby in your tummy? Abort it.

Enjoying the sex but wigged out by the baby in your girlfriend's tummy? See above.

Disturbed by the prospect of human suffering? Ask Phil.

Phil left a comment on a Crunchy Con post about euthanizing suffering animals, and how that can get to a body. He wants to know why we shouldn't extend the concept to a higher order of animal.

As in Homo sapiens.

In the world of Phil -- which, sadly, is increasingly the way of the world around us -- we're all a sick chick, a suffering cat or Spot on his last legs:

If putting an animal out of its misery when it's suffering is okay, then why not humans who want to be put out of their misery? Euthanasia should be for more than just animals. There are worst things than death. Living in pain or living without dignity are worst than death.
I'LL SAY HERE what I told Phil in the Crunchy Con comments. To wit:

Why not euthanize people? Because we are not mere animals.

Human suffering has meaning, however much it might escape us as we're in its midst or as we watch others suffer.

If it didn't have any meaning -- if it didn't in a real way unite us with a suffering Christ, or if the Ten Commandments alternatively told us "Thou shalt not kill, except. . . ." -- well, a compassionate arbiter of the greater good would put a pillow over every newborn's face and smother him on humanitarian grounds the second the kid emerged from the womb.

I don't know, maybe you've led a charmed existence and haven't truly known suffering. Or maybe you've been suffering horribly for a very long time now, but you hold on to hope for reasons known only to yourself.

But this I do know: When we say it's permissible to put people "out of their misery," what we are saying is twofold -- there is no hope, and there is no meaning in people's misery.

No sanctification, no contemplation, no fostering of compassion, no inspiration, no nothing. Nada. Nil.

NIHILISM, I think is the word.

We humans are an odd lot. We're the only species that consciously and "rationally" concludes that the solution to almost every damned thing is death.

Me, I'm like Rod's father . . . "I can't stand killin' anymore."

Funny, Phil, how you can speak so much more blithely about killing suffering humans than I can bring myself to talk about putting down suffering animals.

I've always owned dogs. In our going on 26 years of marriage, my wife and I have had four. Two, we've had to put down when they were old, terminally ill and suffering.

Both times, I gave the vet consent. Both times, I held them and comforted them as they died. You don't get used to it, and it gets harder -- not easier -- each time.

I can't even write about it without my eyes filling with tears.

Yes, I know they were animals, not humans. Yes, I know it was the "right" thing to do, that letting them suffer truly would have been pointless. I know all this intellectually . . . rationally.

But in my heart, I know that they trusted me, depended on me and were more loving and loyal than most humans. And you can't help but feel you let them down, and it haunts you.

That's how I feel about my dogs.

I'm sorry, Phil, that you can feel so much more sanguine about "putting down" human beings, individuals each created in the image of their Creator.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Remember Scum of the Earth?


Listening to the Sex Pistols on this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth reminded me of this.

I wonder why.

Repent! The end may not be near


Cheer up! Things could be worse.

Or so I'm told.

Meanwhile,
this floated over the transom, courtesy of Reuters:
The global economy may be deteriorating even faster than it did during the Great Depression, Paul Volcker, a top adviser to President Barack Obama, said on Friday.

Volcker noted that industrial production around the world was declining even more rapidly than in the United States, which is itself under severe strain.

"I don't remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world,'' Volcker told a luncheon of economists and investors at Columbia University.

Given the extent of the damage, financial regulations must be improved and enhanced to prevent future debacles, although policy-makers must be cautious not disrupt things further while the turmoil is ongoing.

Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve famed for breaking the back of inflation in the early 1980s, mocked the argument that "financial innovation,'' a code word for risky securities, brought any great benefits to society. For most people, he said, the advent of the ATM machine was more crucial than any asset-backed bond.

"There is little correlation between sophistication of a banking system and productivity growth,'' he said.
NOW IS THE TIME for all good men to drop the bulls***. Quit blaming your neighbor who, for whatever reason, is in trouble. Try helping instead.

It's important.

Friday, February 20, 2009

3 Chords & the Truth: Time for a vacation

When in the course of human events, the standard course of American discourse is self-righteous rants about how "losers" aren't entitled to help funded by our tax dollars, screw you, so there . . . it's time to take a vacation.

When you're coming off a bad respiratory bug, and you're better now, but you're not yet 100 percent . . . it's time to take a vacation.

WHEN THE WORLD is crumbling around you, and you wonder if the new definition of "success" will be "he eats regularly," and everybody is looking for someone to blame for this predicament -- someone except oneself, of course . . . it's time to take a vacation.

I'm picturing myself in a Puerto Rican hotel. White sandy sea shore. Tropical breeze. Drinks made with rum. 3 Chords & the Truth on the iPod.

Of course, I'm still stuck here in frigid Omaha, the wind is howling outside, and there's still snow on the ground. But just grant me my illusions, OK?

I'm in a Puerto Rican hotel. Or any hotel, for that matter.

Swilling rum and Coca-Cola. And the music is just fine, right here on the Big Show.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

That's the other ocean, isn't it?

How to make the switch to digital TV


No matter how many public-service announcements TV stations run, no matter how many crawls during the evening news, no matter how many informational segments on said newscasts, no matter how often everyone in television broadcasting stands on a soapbox to cry "Buy a converter box or get cable, for the end of TV as you know it is nigh!" . . . no matter how much (or how loudly) TV people do all of the above, there's no overcoming the cold, hard facts of life.

People are stupid. Or self-absorbed. Or stupid and self-absorbed.

YOU CAN'T BEAT that triumvirate of dumbth. And, thus far, for every local TV station turning off its analog signal to go all-digital, there has been a small army of viewers blindsided by the Big Switch and wondering where Jerry Springer and their stories went.

TV stations just can't win against genetic -- or willful -- ignorance. Or can they?

In Alexandria, La., KALB television shut down its Channel 5 analog signal at 11:55 p.m. Monday. The station, according to the above report on Channel 9 out of Baton Rouge, got few complaints.

How did it manage such a thing?

It was easy. Station management apparently "forced" viewers to get with the program. For a while, KALB had been shutting off the analog signal during the weather.

Brilliant.

Hoss Allen and The !!!! Beat

Here's a rarity for you -- the great Louis Jordan on The !!!! Beat in 1966, with the great Bill "Hoss" Allen as your host.

Hoss Allen, of course, was one of the legendary disc jockeys on WLAC radio in Nashville, the station Southern kids -- and Yankee ones, too -- tuned in late at night to get a heapin' helpin of the R&B and soul being pumped out on its 50,000 pulsating watts. I wonder how many kids turned on Hoss' short-lived, exclamation point-filled TV show only to be shocked to see a white man on the 21-inch screen.

JUST LIKE John Richbourg, the WLAC great better known as "John R."

Want a taste of WLAC back in the day? Go no further than this recording of Richbourg's show from sometime in the early 1970s. Good times.

And . . . you're welcome.

God, radio was great once. It's too easy to forget that nowadays.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Abandon all heauxp


Let me see whether I can put together some news items from today's Louisiana newspapers.

Let's start with the bad-news baseline for the Gret Stet: There is -- at a minimum -- a bad, bad recession in full swing, the price of oil has collapsed, tax revenues surely will be down and the state is looking at a budget shortfall of about $2 billion.

If things don't get any worse.

CONTINUING WITH the baseline of suck, we note that various constitutional strictures ensure most of the budget ax's blows will fall squarely on the necks of higher education and social services. This promises that cuts to those crucial areas will be draconian. As in -- worst case -- a 30-percent reduction in higher-ed funding.

According to Louisiana State's student newspaper, planning by officials on the main Baton Rouge campus has turned up some dire consequences of a 30-percent cut. The Daily Reveille reported Thursday that:
The University is bracing to endure a 29.8 percent drop in enrollment if it’s forced to cut $71.9 million from its budget next fiscal year, according to documents obtained by The Daily Reveille.

And an apparent difference between the University and the LSU System’s approaches to dealing with the cuts has been a sticking point between the two since the beginning of the year.

An estimated 8,500 students may leave the University if state funding is cut by 30 percent next fiscal year.

This figure — among others like hikes in tuition and student fees — was not included in the LSU System’s “budget reduction exercise” released Feb. 4.

“We’ve tried to minimize any discussion of enrollment loss and avoid too much focus on alternative sources of revenue,” LSU System President John Lombardi told Chancellor Michael Martin in a Jan. 29 e-mail obtained by The Daily Reveille. “Those issues are likely to prompt questions we’re not ready to answer given the variable nature of the budget conversations at the present time.”

With a projected cut in higher education state funding between $212 million and $382 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the Division of Administration asked Lombardi to complete a “budget reduction exercise” showing what a cut of up to 30 percent in funding would mean for the System.

Administrators at the 11 institutions compiled their own budget scenarios to submit to the System office, where they were compiled into one “budget reduction exercise” and submitted to the Division of Administration.

Records show several differences between what the University submitted and what was shown in the System’s exercise.

“I think [the System’s budget reduction exercise] made as good of a case as it could [for the University],” Martin told The Daily Reveille on Wednesday. “I understand that we have other units within the System that have to be represented as well.”

Lombardi declined an interview, through System Spokesman Charles Zewe, about the differences between the budget scenarios.

Martin said University officials focused more on finding possible solutions for a cut of up to 30 percent while the System’s interests lay in displaying what an across-the-board cut of 30 percent would look like for the System.
LET'S PUT THIS in perspective. Right now, LSU's Baton Rouge campus -- the state's "flagship" university -- has an enrollment of 26,140. Let's assume the state makes draconian cuts and the enrollment craters as badly as LSU administrators think it will.

That would leave LSU's new enrollment at just over 17,600 students, smaller than it has been in nearly 40 years. By way of comparison, the University of Nebraska at Omaha -- an urban, primarily commuter campus -- has about 15,000 students.

The enrollment collapse, though, would just be the beginning of the carnage:
Besides an estimated student loss of 8,500 — including 2,250, or about half, the minority student population — other elements were discussed in the University’s budget scenario that were omitted from the System’s final draft.

For instance, the Bengal Legacy Scholarships for non-resident sons and daughters of LSU graduates, the Board of Supervisors scholarships and the Louisiana Freshman Merit Award would be eliminated under worst-case scenario cuts, according to the University’s budget exercise.

“The cutting of any scholarship will have a detrimental impact on students eligible for the awards and may have a negative impact on enrollment,” the document states.

Merit increases for faculty, administrative and professional staff would also be “out of the question.”

With a large budget reduction, closing academic colleges is likely.

“To reach this [30 percent] level of a cut, more than one large college must be eliminated because of the corresponding loss of tuition revenue,” the document states.
WHOLE COLLEGES. Gone. Just the prescription for the "jewel" of a substandard higher-ed system in a poor, ignorant, underdeveloped state.

This is the backdrop for the other headlines of the day.

One is atop a column by veteran Lake Charles columnist Jim Beam,
who writes in the American Press that, no matter how much sense it might make, don't look for lawmakers to cut back on the state's bloated ranks of four-year universities.

Quantity always has been more important to the Gret Stet than quality, and the people's representatives aren't about to change things now. No matter how desperate the fiscal situation:
Any legislator with a higher education institution in or near his district is going to be reluctant to close a university anywhere else for fear his school could be next. That is the political reality here.

Making a college education convenient and affordable is everyone’s goal. Unfortunately, the legislators who promoted four-year status for LSU-A didn’t tell their colleagues the whole story.

The ink had hardly dried on the act Foster signed in 2001 before those same supporters launched grandiose plans for spending millions of dollars more on expanded facilities at the university.

While everything Michot, Clausen and others are saying makes sense, it’s not likely to change anything. The Legislature doesn’t have the courage it would take to close any state universities. If lawmakers could resist political pressure, LSU-A wouldn’t be a four-year school today.
MEANWHILE, some legislators are seeking a way to deal with an ideologue governor threatening to turn down, on "principle," billions in federal "stimulus" money as he stares down a $2 billion budget defecit.

On the other hand, according to Gannett newspapers, some legislators -- in the face of the $2 billion budget deficit --
think cutting taxes is just the thing to do when you're already way short of money. Gov. Bobby Jindal thinks this might be just as good an idea as gutting higher education and turning down billions from Uncle Sam:
Questions submitted to the governor's office about the tax cuts proposed so far brought a response from Kyle Plotkin, the governor's press secretary. The governor was out of town.

Plotkin said, "As a conservative, the governor supports tax cuts and has cut taxes in Louisiana six times so far. He is willing to support tax cuts that are fiscally responsible by being fully implemented in the same year and are accompanied by necessary spending reductions.
ONE CAN ONLY ASSUME that Louisiana has gone from being misgoverned by crooks to being driven into the ditch by fools and nuts.

Of course, this being Louisiana, the fools and nuts always had a place at the policy-making table. But now, with crookedness being less fashionable than it historically has been, the fools and nuts have seized their opportunity to shine.

There are three ways to live happily in Louisiana. One is not to care about one's future or one's fellow man.

Another is to adopt a fanatical devotion to Bacchus while trying to ignore the shadows creeping up on you and yours.

The third is to adopt a position of pie-eyed optimism, maintaining that everything is tickety-boo in Bayou Goula despite all available evidence.

UNFORTUNATELY, none of the "happy" strategies account for the inevitability of getting bitten -- hard -- in the ass by reality, which it would appear is now upon Louisiana in what might be an unprecedented manner. And that reality, cher . . . she can be a stone-cold bitch, yeah.

The Swine Rebellion . . . live on CNBC


Did you get talked into an adjustable-rate mortgage by an unscrupulous broker, only to have the value of your house collapse and the mortgage reset?

Did you get a fixed-rate mortgage on an overpriced house that also happened to be the cheapest house . . . at least the cheapest house in a neighborhood you dared live in?

Did you do all the right things? Tried to be responsible, didn't buy too much house . . . but didn't count on your house now being worth two-thirds of what the mortgage is?

Well, bubbie, you're a loser!

YOU'RE A LOSER, a drain on society who doesn't deserve one iota of help from the government. You're a parasite who will be sucking the hard-earned monetary lifeblood out of "ordinary folks" -- like Chicago traders and well-paid CNBC talking heads like Rick Santelli.

And what needs to happen to you is a good dose of social Darwinism. You need to be left to ruin. Homelessness, even.

Government aid should be restricted to the worthy -- to the producers of society. You are worthless and weak and, if need be, there should be a revolution of the fit in this country to put you in your place.

Note that this revolution will be coming after Wall Street got its wad of the taxpayers' scratch.

OR, AS BILLIE HOLIDAY observed as we were emerging from the last depression:

Them that's got shall get
Them that's not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don't ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that's got his own
That's got his own

THIS IS AMERICA on the edge of the abyss. This is the America of "them's that got shall get." That is, until the gettin's no good.

Then comes the America that eats its own. Its poster child is Rick Santelli . . . live on CNBC.

Never has "capitalist pig" been such an apt description.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Doom is becoming a meme


I keep hoping Gerald Celente is a nut, because if he's not . . . we're toast.

So, how do you think we look in marmalade? Will we go well with tea? Reasonable questions in these interesting times, I think, because Gerald Celente -- the doomsaying trends researcher with a much better than average track record -- is no nut.

Colorful and a great self-promoter, but no nut.

IN BRIEF, Celente thinks we're at the beginning of what he calls the Greater Depression, that unrest and uprising will sweep the land, and that the trendy Christmas gift for 2012 won't be an iPod. It will be food.

Welcome to the United States of America, the world's first formerly developed country. According to Gerald Celente. Who is right more often than not in his forecasts.

I think the reason Celente is all over the media (and now is all over the blogs of folks like me) is that our collective gut tells us he's right. That our entire economy, society and coddled, hyperindividualistic existence is absolutely unsustainable.

Not politically, not emotionally, not spiritually, not economically, not environmentally.

WE GOT too greedy, too fast, and we partied like there was no tomorrow. Welcome to tomorrow.

That's what my ample, middle-aged gut is telling me. That's what Celente's data are telling him.

So, how then shall we live?

My guess is radically differently than we do now -- as if we're going to have any choice in the matter. Everything will change.

I think God will change, too. Rather, I think our perception of God -- our relationship to God and the church -- will change. That, or God will become dead to us.

We no longer can afford a lot of things, and a self-satisfied, self-reverential (and referential), middle-class Christianity is one of those luxuries now beyond our grasp. We will be holy, or we will be savages.

The center did not hold. Neither will Marty Haugen. At least the coming Bad Times won't be all bad.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The next police union mailer?


Given the Omaha police union's "dedication" to truth, justice and the American Way, I think this might be the only place left for it to go in the quest to pare down its enemies list through political assassination.

And if Hal Daub happens to get elected amid the fallout . . .
hey, it's a wonderful life, right?

YEAH, a wonderful life. In a city where the police union bullies politicians, then unleashes all demagogic hell upon them if the pols don't toe the security forces' political line.

From the
Omaha World-Herald's story on the latest Omaha Police Officers' Association smear job:

The union mailed another political flier this week that shows a creepy sex offender on its cover and takes Vokal and Brown to task for voting against an amendment that would have allowed officers to monitor sex offenders.

Vokal and Brown have both criticized the mailers as "dirty politics," saying they are misleading and that they are political payback for other police issues before the Omaha City Council.

Vokal and Brown have said the mailers are political retribution for his attempt to to limit police pensions during contract negotiations last year.

The mailers are expected to land in mailboxes today.

The dispute centers on a 2006 proposal to allow police to do compliance checks on sex offenders, making sure they were properly registered under state law. It was part of a debate on an ordinance to prohibit high-risk sex offenders from living within 500 feet of schools.

The amendment failed on a 5-2 vote, with Vokal and Brown joining the majority. The ordinance passed on a 7-0 vote.

Police union's politics of fear


If Jim Vokal becomes mayor of Omaha, he ought to appoint 50 independent police auditors and make them all Ernie Chambers.

Come to think of it, half a hundred of the Omaha Police Department's worst political nightmare may not be enough for the job. Just think what Omaha cops are capable of doing to folks in the 'hood when -- given a ballot and the cloak of anonymity -- they elect union reps who will stoop to any level of depravity to trash a sitting city councilman.

One with the nerve, and the poll numbers, to pick off their fair-haired political enabler, former mayor (and mayoral wannabe) Hal Daub.


WHY SHOULD ANY OMAHAN have any faith or trust in the city's police when officers pick as their union bosses an ethics- and truth-challenged band of political sleazemeisters capable of wallowing so deeply in the mud they'd need a ladder to scratch a serpent's belly? This is what we're to expect from our public servants?

Think of it this way: These people -- these "law-enforcement" personnel -- are the folks we entrust with maintaining public order. Yet the leadership of the Omaha Police Officers' Association, when it suits its political purposes (or those of its political patron) does not hesitate to use fear . . . to employ the language and imagery of the lynch mob to take down a sitting councilman.

In the world of politics, Omaha's police-union bosses are perfectly willing to stretch the boundaries of truth, civility and propriety to the breaking point for their own benefit. In the world of the streets, they expect civilians to stay within those same boundaries . . . or else.

Speak to an Omaha cop the way Omaha cops' leadership speaks of their political enemies, you're probably going to get arrested. That speaks to me of a profound credibility problem.

Credibility is the cops' problem -- not the people's. And that will come back to bite them exactly 100 percent of the time.

An electronic boat anchor


Starting today, we begin in earnest the short march to the end of TV as we've known it since Philo Farnsworth and Vladimir Zworykin figured out the all-electronic television method.

At noon today in Omaha, for the first time in almost 60 years, we'll see nothing on Channel 6 but nothing. It's all gone digital . . . and to new digital channels.

So, in honor of the beginning of the end of an analog era, let's take a look back. And don't touch that dial!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Desperation is da mama uh common sense


Holy crap.

The budget crisis is so bad in Louisiana that, out of sheer desperation, even legislators are starting to think straight. No, really.

I AM NOT making this up. Check it out -- it's in Friday's New Orleans Times-Picayune:

With a $2 billion shortfall looming in the state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, the state should look at shutting down some of its smaller four-year colleges, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Thursday.

"We have too many four-year schools," Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, told reporters after a four-hour meeting with higher education officials on their proposed budget cuts.

Michot did not say which schools should be closed, but he said turning the Alexandria branch of LSU from a two-year campus into a four-year school a few years ago was a step in the wrong direction as the state was developing a community college system.

"You can stand on the Bonnet Carre Spillway and can be at six schools in an hour's drive," Michot said. "There is an opportunity with a tight budget" to realign schools, possibly merge some and close some.

Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Covington, called for an outside consultant to study the state's college system and make recommendations on which ones may have to go.

Higher Education Commissioner Sally Clausen said her staff and the state's college system presidents have been looking at economies in programs as they face cuts of as much as $382 million in the coming year.

Achieving greater efficiency in higher education and possibly closing some schools should be studied now, said Sen. Nick Gautreaux, D-Abbeville. "It is going to have to happen," he said. "The general public really wants this one."

THIS IS ENTIRELY new thinking afoot in the halls of the Louisiana Capitol, and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. You see, the Gret Stet really has no significant tradition of reality-based thinking . . . and, for the life of me, this appears to be just that.

Reality-based thinking.

By Louisiana legislators.

Holy café au lait, Batman!

What may be emerging -- MAY be emerging -- due to the specter of budgetary calamity is a realization that the populist vision of the brothers Long, Huey and Earl, was a flawed one at best. And, at worst, a deliberate charade foisted upon people who were too stupid or too solipsistic to know any better.

For many decades, what that has meant in higher education is that many a podunk town has found itself with its own four-year "university," usually not very good at all, and usually sporting a high percentage of young men and women who don't belong in a four-year university at all. Louisianians considered this "progress," harboring the politician-encouraged illusion this made them as up-to-date and sophisticated as the Yankees in dem big cities dere in da Nawth.

That, of course, was the case among just the "white" schools. Thanks to the mass insanity spread by ol' Jim Crow, Louisiana also had to support a "separate but equal" (heh, heh, heh) system of higher education for African-Americans. These schools got the crumbs from the white schools' "wish sandwich" (two pieces of bread, and you wish you had some meat -- or resources, as the case may be).

Meanwhile, Louisiana's few state universities worthy of the designation suffered from rampant underfunding and the mediocrity a chronic scarcity of resources brings. The monetary and human-capital "pie" is only so big in a state like the Gret Stet -- even when you're soaking the oil industry -- and the flim-flam men's greatest scam was in slicing that pie into paper-thin pieces while proclaiming a piping-hot educational feast for all.

And the people bought it. Then again, most people's concern for higher ed begins and ends on the sports page of the Daily Blab.

Pray God, those days won't be able to endure the New Austerity, where not only is a mind a terrible thing to waste, but a dollar is too. Pray hard, because legislators' solution to most everything is to make insane across-the-board cuts rather than put somebody's half-assed "Harvard on the Bayou" out of its misery.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Finding good reasons for bad things

Somebody always has something somebody else wants.

It might be poontang, or it might be a vote. So what's wrong with reasonable people making a reasonable exchange . . . one want for another?

Right? Right?

HERE, WE HAVE a perfectly reasonable argument in favor of legal prostitution, courtesy of Jessica Woods, as published last April in The Jambar, the student newspaper at Youngstown State University:

According to the Liberator.net, prostitution is the oldest job in the world, dating back to biblical ages where it was seen as an accepted, non-taboo, at least until the New Testament and Christ. Ironic, though, that even in Israel, the "holiest" land in the world, prostitution is legal.

The basic, instinctive need for sex is a primitive desire in all humans. Why shouldn't it be a commodity for sale? Doesn't even the "healthiest" of marriages use sex as a bargaining chip? In comedies like CBS's "Yes, Dear" the wife is always encouraging her husband to do things for her with the promise of sex to come. People find this funny or even identify with him, yet prostitution remains a taboo in our society.

We are a country where a teenager can kill her unborn baby via abortion, in some states without her parents' consent, but a woman can't sell her sexuality for a living. The argument here is "her body, her choice," or at least that's the feminist mantra grew up hearing in regard to abortion. Killing a baby will always be wrong, but earning a living off your body's ability to give pleasure shouldn't be.

In light of the resignation of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer in March, the concept of the "high-class call girl" has been brought to our attention again, just as the Heidi Fleiss scandal of the '90s did.

A young — usually college-age — beautiful, intelligent woman entertains wealthy doctors, lawyers, real estate moguls and celebrities for up to $10,000 a night, cash. The sex is consensual, condoms are used and discretion is enforced, both for the client and the sex worker. The client is satisfied because he knows the woman he is enjoying is routinely tested for STDs and is a willing participant who will not disclose his business, as a mistress likely would. The agency is satisfied because it has amassed a great deal of money and powerful clients. And most importantly, the call girl is satisfied because she has used her mind and body to earn a fantastic sum of money that keeps her in Mercedes and Versace. She has her freedom, power and choice to leave the industry at any time. One could argue that she has more advantages than a common housewife.
ONE ALSO could argue about what part of 'Thou shalt not commit adultery' doesn't the author understand when she contends the taboo against prostitution only goes back to that notorious party-pooper, Jesus Christ. But that's not important now.

What's important is that, when you get right down to it, all the arguments for prostituting one's body -- or, say, one's elective office -- are cut from the same cloth.

Free people. Fair exchange. Mutual benefits.

For instance, Nebraska state senators have all kinds of arguments -- many quite "reasonable" -- in favor of their do-it-yourself pimping, some of which appear in the Omaha World-Herald:

Traditional lobbying groups such as bankers, accountants and farm groups are typical hosts, but the Winnebago Tribe, the City of Omaha and Gov. Dave Heineman also have their free luncheon affairs.

The number of such social events has been steadily rising over the past few years. Often two or three events are going on at the same time.

Observers and participants say the events have increased because of term limits, the desire of organizations to connect with 36 new senators elected in the past two elections and more groups trying to meet with lawmakers over a meal, particularly breakfast and lunch.

"I tried to go to four breakfasts (in one morning) once, and I almost vomited doing it," said former State Sen. Jim Cudaback of Riverdale. "After the 100th one, it really isn't a perk."


(snip)

Nebraska senators and lobbyists defend the meals, saying they are a convenient and sociable way of acquainting legislators with issues and each other. Meetings that involve constituents coming to Lincoln are almost a must-attend, several lawmakers said.

"If a library director is going to drive 140 miles from Kearney to Lincoln, the (least) I can do is come and have lunch with them," said Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney.

Hadley and some other first-year senators said they try to attend as many events as possible, though they've all heard of senators who gained up to 20 pounds a session because of the meals.

Rogert and several other senators said they saw nothing ethically wrong with taking a free lunch.

"If you work for a company and you're out in the field, you're buying a lunch every single day," Rogert said. "Lunches are the place to do business worldwide."
HEY, IF A HOT BABE is going to drive at least a couple of hours to get a piece of this, the least I can do is be agreeable and accommodating. Right, Honey?

Right?

Honey?

Sweetie?

I mean, it's the polite thing. Honey?

HONEY???

Where are you going with that suitcase?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

SlimeDaub Mayornaire and his rent-a-cops


The Omaha police union strikes again. If only Jimmy Hoffa had had a badge to hide behind when he was throwing the Teamsters' weight around back in the day.

Obviously, this Midwestern metropolis' answer to "On the Waterfront" has picked its man in the May mayoral primary. It ain't Jim Vokal.

Something tells me it likewise ain't the Democrat in the race, Jim Suttle. Let's see . . . who's left among the major candidates?

Could it beeeeeeeeeeee . . . Satan Hal Daub?

IT'S NOT really surprising the police union is stooping to really slimy tactics -- not to mention trumpeting "facts" that happen to be absolutely irrelevant -- in a bid to kneecap the leading challenger to the former mayor. After all, the "tough on crime" Daub let Omaha cops pretty much get away with murder for six years.

Perhaps literally, some would argue.

What is surprising is that Hal Daub needs a "bad cop." Maybe he's trying the "bad cop/bad cop" technique to break the voters this time around.


Here's what the Bad Cop's bad cops are trying to get the good people of Omaha to swallow -- that Vokal "failed to protect our neighborhoods" by being one of a majority of council members nixing a proposal to assign Omaha cops to help the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in checking up on sex offenders. The rejected item was an amendment to a unanimously passed ordinance restricting where sex offenders can live in the city.

Sounds like Vokal is against sex offenders to me.

And unless Vokal is a superhero with the superpower to single-handedly prevent sexual assaults and eradicate sex offenders, you have view the "facts" of his district being the location of a disproportionate number of sex offenders and sexual assaults as laughably irrelevant.

Strike that. It's not laughable.

THE FOLKS making such disingenuous and asinine assertions are police officers. That people so dishonest, stupid and dismissive of your intelligence are on the streets -- with guns -- enforcing the law isn't funny at all.

And it's even less funny that such political and moral cretins are serving as a de facto goon squad for Daub, a politician petty enough to allow the credibility and legitimacy of law enforcement to be so diminished in service of his addiction to political power and blind ambition.

Oh . . . since we're talking about sex offenders, you really have to give the Omaha police union Brownie points for sheer nerve, the criminal record of one former cop being what it is. If Jim Vokal is going to be made to own a single vote, and the crime stats of his district, how much, then, ought the police union be made to own Scott Antoniak.

Just asking.

Seeking the ink of life

A letter from World-Herald, an apostle of Omaha by the will of the media gods, to the remnant who are still reading, faithful in putting four bits in the newspaper machine every day: grace to you and peace from Terry our Publisher and the members of the Board.

And it came to pass, in the fullness of time and after the injection of gallons of ink, that Kat von D came unto Omaha to preach the gospel of body art amid the moneychangers. There, the multitudes had watched her wondrous deeds on cable TV, and they were amazed.

"Surely, this is the Daughter of Miami Ink," sayeth the many, and the people took counsel in the parking lot. "If only we might put our gaze upon her tats -- TATS, you idiot -- our souls might be healed and our lives find meaning."

VERILY, on the third day of the second week of the second month, the multitude awaiteth the Kat as she trod among the moneychangers. And, yea, the multitudes did verily lay weary eyes upon her glorious tats -- TATS, you idiot -- and were healed.

Or something.

At just after noon, a panicked Julia Carrillo rushed to Border's bookstore.

The parking lot was packed. The store lobby was full and a line was snaking around shelves.

Carrillo, 22, skipped her Tuesday afternoon class at the University of Nebraska at Omaha to meet celeb-tattoo artist Kat Von D.

Who needs a course in sexual development when a real sexy rocker chick is in town?

The "L.A. Ink" reality TV star was signing her new book, "High Voltage Tattoo," No. 5 on the New York Times best-seller list this week.

About 500 people — mostly giggly teens, college kids and middle-aged men — waited for their chance to meet Von D. Some arrived at the 72nd and Dodge Streets store as early as 7 a.m.

ATTENTION BORDER'S SHOPPERS . . . does everybody have a copy of Miss von D's book? She will not be available to tattoo you a quickie teardrop on your butt, but you will be free to latch onto some false sense of intimacy with Kat. Perhaps you'll make some fleeting connection.

That is all.
The star, who wore chic black leather pants and tall stiletto boots, is known for her oversized personality.

"Hey-y-y," she shouted as she stepped out of a private room.

Teary-faced girls shrieked. "Kat, Kat," guys called out. One teen almost fainted.

Von D's coffee table book has been called "a name-dropping goulash" that weaves her autobiography with tattoo wisdom, pictures of her work and a 10-page full-body spread of her in a yellow bikini and seven-inch rhinestone-red stilettos.

Kat Von D got her start on "Miami Ink" and eventually got her own show, "L.A. Ink," which became the highest-rated show on the TLC cable network. While on break from filming, she's visiting a few dozen cities to promote her book.


(snip)

Ana Frost of Glenwood, Iowa, was first up. She couldn't keep her hands from shaking as she grasped Von D's hand.

"Thanks for waiting for me," Von D told her. "You're the first one."

When it was Carrillo's turn to meet her idol, she choked up. Tears welled.

"Is this for me?" Von D asked as she accepted the jewelry and the letter in a box. "Cool, cool." She then gave Carrillo a hug.

Cameras flashed as fans captured the moment. At times, Von D broke the bookstore's "book signing only" policy and scribbled her name on posters, magazines, T-shirts, arms, wrists and one guy's belly.

"You're so beautiful," Von D told Omahan Hillary Carr, who stood out with her black-and-blonde hair, a punk-gothic black baby-doll dress, dark eye makeup and chunky jewelry.

Carr, 18, burst into tears.

"She called me beautiful. She's my inspiration," Carr explained, saying she's not a typical teen and often doesn't feel pretty.

IMAGINE. SUCKERS LIKE ME have put untold years and untold tears into this Jesus Christ business and this Christianity crap, and all we got was this lousy cross.

Of course, this lousy cross we got stuck with -- in addition to the eternal-life thing -- ought to also empower us as a church to tell young women like Hillary Carr that, yes, we think they're beautiful . . . and that Jesus does, too.

Hey! We can form a diocesan task force on loving castoff teens who don't think they're beautiful! We'll do that just as soon as we wrap up the pending real-estate deals and settle on an architect for the new cathedral visitors' center.

Oh . . . and the annual appeal. That's going to be a toughie this year.

We'll get around to the goth kid after that. I think we can pencil her in sometime in March 2011.

Oh, that's right . . . we have to wait for the committee recommendation on Goth Teen Ministry protocols before we can pencil her in. Tentatively plan on May. May 2012.

Now let's everybody sing a rousing verse and chorus of "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Luuuuuuuv."